Airline lounges are 75 years old. The first one was an American Airlines lounge in New York.
- The original club opened in 1939. New York’s Mayor LaGuardia was criticized for having too big an office at New York LaGuardia airport so he rented out some of the space to American.
- They couldn’t name it “Admirals Club” because a judge determined people might think it was for Navy Admirals only, so it was named “Flagship Club” (American’s current lounges are Admirals Clubs while their first class lounges are Flagship Lounges).
- The second club was at Washington National airport. They weren’t allowed to serve alcohol, so they stored bottles for members. This practice continued until liquor laws were changed in 1970.
- American’s sales department gave out memberships, with paid memberships introduced in 1967 ($25 per year, or $250 for a lifetime membership).
Paid memberships became the norm across the industry after a 1974 Civil Aeronautics Board ruling. Paid club memberships were an anti-discrimination measure — lounges were open to anyone willing to pay the fee.
Here’s American’s new airport lounge strategy. Unquestionably lounges have come a long way since the advent of the lounge 75 years ago.
In the US we have American Express Centurion lounges far exceeding what we’ve become used to.
Of course little can match the Thai Airways spa in the Bangkok airport.
.. or Lufthansa’s tarmac transfers.
Who knew that in some sense we have populist outrage over Fiorello LaGuardia’s airport office to thank?